What’s the simple answer to the question of which fight is most important Saturday night? The main event, obviously. That’s why it’s the main event.
But it’s not always that simple with UFC cards, especially when it comes to their UFC on Fox outings.
The first one obviously was all about the main event: Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos, in a real life clash of the titans. And while that fight is viewed today as something of a letdown, I take some comfort in the fact that unlike the film “Clash of the Titans”, Velazquez vs. dos Santos only took 64 seconds to disappoint you on every level, while not featuring Sam Worthington in any way. So there’s that.
Then there was UFC on Fox 2, headlined by Rashad Evans in his millionth or so No. 1 contender’s bout against Phil Davis. Now I don’t know about you, but to just about everyone at the bar I was watching at, the real main event was the Chael Sonnen vs. Mike Bisping co-main event.
Sure, both fights were slower, mostly wrestling-based affairs with little drama—yet the only complaint we leveled against Sonnen was that he didn’t insult nearly enough ethnic minorities in his post-fight interview.
Now we have UFC on Fox 3 (yep, I can still count) headlined by Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller. Again, it would seem that the main event is the biggest fight of the night—but I’m not so sure. This is the deepest card yet for a UFC on Fox event, stacked with interesting and relevant fights.
Which one is the most important—let’s find out, shall we?
And just to help you out (and because I’m feeling crazy), I’ve already numbered them in order of importance.
4. Josh Koscheck vs. Johny Hendricks
Is it just me, or do the fellows at AKA have a weird thing with avenging each other’s losses?
When Paulo Thiago knocked Koscheck out cold, the next guy he faced was Jon Fitch. Then he faced Mike Swick a few months later. For a long time, it seemed the entire AKA camp was calling out Matt Hughes—before Kos fought him. When Fitch was himself knocked silly by Johny Hendricks, Koscheck was eager to step up as his next opponent.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t make this fight all that important. Sure, Hendricks is one of the biggest rising stars in the welterweight division, while Kos is one of the biggest names at 170. But what would a win do for either man in this situation? Neither guy is getting a title shot until Condit/GSP happens (and it’s debatable if Kos will even get another shot), so they’re more or less spinning their wheels here.
Look at the list of who either man would face with a win, and who they would face with a loss. When they’re more or less the same list, you know it’s not the most important fight in the world.
3. Pat Berry vs. Lavar Johnson
Somehow, Pat Berry has managed to manoeuvre himself into an extremely enviable position in the UFC.
Why do I say that? Because despite being nowhere near the title picture, despite being only .500 in his UFC career and only 7-4 as a professional, despite obvious and glaring holes in his game, and despite some ridiculously high profile losses—Pat Berry is still, against all odds, “the man.”
He’s a guy the UFC pushes and that fans respond to, yet absolutely nothing is expected of him beyond an entertaining fight. He could do nothing but “fun” fights, and he’s still be one of the most well-liked guys in the heavyweight division.
In the night’s opening bout, Barry faces former WEC and Strikeforce veteran Lavar Johnson. Call me cynical, but the only Lavar I’ve ever cared about was the one who kept the engines of the Enterprise running while wearing a headband on his face and teaching children about the joys of reading in his spare time.
Fun fight, but not all that important to anyone not named Barry or Johnson.
2. Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller
OH SNAP! C’mon, you didn’t really think I would go to the trouble of making this list and then NOT swerve the main event out of the No. 1 spot, did you?
Now don’t get me wrong: Diaz vs. Miller is a very important fight, one that will determine the next challenger to the Frankie Edgar world title. Excuse me, I meant the lightweight world title. So obviously, there’s plenty on the line for either guy in this fight. And that’s to say nothing of the almost guaranteed fireworks this fight promises to be.
So it’s important, no doubt.
Still, it doesn’t snag that top spot because promised title shots in the lightweight division are almost worthless at this point. Just ask Anthony Pettis about the value of a “guaranteed” title shot at 155 when we’re only ever a draw or close decision away from seeing Frankie Edgar bounce back from adversity stronger than ever!
No, I’m afraid the top honours in this irrelevant, entirely arbitrary ranking must go to:
1. Rousimar Palhares vs. Alan Belcher
Now why in God’s name, you ask, is this fight featuring two middle-of-the-pack middleweights (there’s a tongue-twister for you) more important than a #1 contender’s fight in a deeper division?
Well there’s your answer right there: Middleweight is shallow. I’ve used this analogy before, but basically I see the entire middleweight division as the Justice League.
There’s Superman, all-powerful, all-mighty, pretty much invincible—and a bunch of other folks who do only some of what he does and nowhere near as well. One wonders why someone like Green Arrow even bothers strapping on his bow and arrow when Superman can crush coal into diamonds, take a nuke to the face without blinking, fly through the heart of the sun and come back before he’s managed to pull his green tights past his ass?
Yes, I’m talking about Anderson Silva, who’s made middleweight seem extremely uninteresting by how totally and completely he’s outclassed the entire division.
Sure, there’s Chael Sonnen (the Lex Luthor to Silva’s bald, pink t-shirt wearing, disco-dancing Clark Kent) but aside from that: Who else do you see challenging for the middleweight title? It’s not a long list, and pretty much no one on it will convince Joe E. Casual Fan to plunk down his $49.99.
So this fight matters because of the chance—however remote—that one of these guys establishes himself as a star outside Andy’s shadow. It’s not that far-fetched when you think about it. Neither guy has ever faced Anderson before, so no footage exists of his soul being devoured by a slender looking Brazilian man with an effeminate voice.
And both men are already carving out niches of their own with MMA fans. Palhares is quickly making a name for himself with his ripped physique, and propensity for alternating incredible submissions with absolutely mind-numbingly stupid decisions in the cage. And most fans already know Belcher as the owner of MMA’s worst tattoo, so…that’s something, I guess.
Here’s hoping one of these guys (ah hell, I hope it’s Palhares—simply because he’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a real-life video game character outside of Anderson himself) breaks through on Saturday night and gives fans something new to care about at middleweight.